A different perspective on today's show: let me introduce you to Olivier Ezratty, an icon of the French tech industry, currently on a sabbatical year, after 15 years with Microsoft France, including 3 as Director of Marketing and 4 years as head of the Developers and Platform Group, supporting all major software vendors in the country.
Although trained as an engineer from Ecole Centrale, I can tell you Olivier is a fantastic marketeer and salesman: I remember seeing him on stage many years ago (1998?) at a trade fair at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, selling WindowsNT and Visual Basic to over 2,000 people in the audience!
In this episode we had a chat about how technology can help entrepreneurs: of course, Olivier pointed to how it applies to marketing, comparing what is possible today with the Internet and all the new web 2.0 tools such as blogs, vlogs, postcasts, etc. vs. how he did marketing 10 years ago: to him it is more efficient, more ubiquitous, more transparent and offers more targeted marketing. Indeed. I would argue that there are so many other areas as well, including collaborative work, offshoring, and countless new business possibilites, but we didn't have time to touch on that.
What we did talk about however involved some of the technology areas Olivier is looking into with more detail these days: he started his own home theater 8 years ago, way before it became mainstream (emulating I guess BillG's dream house or maybe he was a pioneer in what he thought would be the way of the future?). Inspired by that experiment, a lot of what he is looking into these days involves digital photography, video on demand,... in a word, multimedia convergence. Why ? Because he believes that a lof in this area will be powered by software (Microsoft has a play of course with the Media Center Edition of Windows), by third-party software, by services companies, etc. Indeed, multimedia is changing our every day lives, just consider what the iPod has done: bringing audio, photo and now video to the masses on the go.
Among the things that Olivier is doing in his sabbatical is actually some free-lance consulting with other software vendors, helping them from the inside with their marketing strategy, their product strategy, and planning for international operations, indeed something he learned on the job over the years at Microsoft.
I asked him what main differences he saw between being an employee of a large corporation and being independant these days (a proxy I believe for his potential upcoming entrepreneurial life ;); no surprise here: of course Olivier mentionned freedom, risk-taking, creativity, enthusiasm, and less contraints (except for the funding issue many start-ups face). My guess is that this man will not go back easily to MSFT...
This interview was shot last monday in Paris, during a conference where Bill Gates himself came to talk to French software vendors, entrepreneurs and VCs. He didn't say much, except repeating software probably 3 dozen times. I didn't take any pictures but captured part of his speech in audio format on my Nokia phone, and I have to say that SOFTWARE is indeed his favourite word ;) the conference itself felt a bit like receiving a head of state, very formal, instead of an opportunity of talking candidly with one of the guys who shapes the future of technology. I would have loved to have him interact with the room on mobile telephony, set top boxes, PVRs, web services, web 2.0 features, embedded software, etc.
The highlight of the round table was definitively Bernard Charlès (he guy has his own domain name ;), CEO of Dassault Systèmes, who almost waited for BillG to come on stage before demo-ing himself his latest acquisition: Virtools (sold to him by Eric Huet - see RSS #14). And many of my friends and contacts in the entrepreneurial and VC world were there. We had great and very quick chats. Fun!